How to short-circuit negativity, keep morale high


By Ken Tysiac

Employees are happier when they are not left in the dark.

That’s the finding of a new survey of human resources professionals, which found that poor communication may be the factor that causes greatest harm to workplace morale.

One-third (33%) of the more than 300 HR managers surveyed by temporary accounting staffing service Accountemps said lack of open, honest communication has the most negative impact on employee morale.

In addition, 38% of respondents said communication is the best remedy for low morale.

“Managers can be doing everything right, but if they’re not including employees in the information loop, staff engagement could suffer,” Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said in a news release.

Other top morale killers identified by HR respondents in the survey included micromanaging employees (18%), failure to recognise employee achievements (15%) and fear of job loss (10%).

In addition to communication, other top remedies for low morale identified by respondents were monetary rewards for exceptional performance (15%), recognition programs (15%) and unexpected rewards, such as gift certificates or tickets to sporting events (13%).

Remedies for low morale, according to Accountemps, include:

  • Keep employees informed. Even if management has bad news or doesn’t have the answer to every question, abundant, honest information can short-circuit gossip and the rumour mill.
  • Foster initiative. Getting employees to take ownership of tasks and solve problems in creative ways can increase buy-in, motivation and morale.
  • Give rewards. Recognising employees with praise, low-cost rewards and spot bonuses can lift their spirits. Making rewards personal and giving them soon after an achievement also can help.
  • Check the pulse. Identifying morale problems can help you fix them. Checking in with workers regularly and watching for red flags such as negativity, rises in absenteeism and reduced commitment can help short-circuit low morale.
  • Watch for quality. Poor performance – manifested in missed deadlines, increased mistakes or a decline in service – can be the result of low morale.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.